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Academic Research


         Professor Liz Kelly, Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Eeva Eriksson (2016). Knowledge and Know-how: The Role of Self-defence in the Prevention of Violence against Women. Policy Department C: Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs

This report summarizes a study that was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. It was published by the European Parliament Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs. The study is a meta-analysis of research on self-defense and policies on the prevention of violence against women in the European Union.


         Danek, M. and Ziv, Y. (2015). An evaluation of the effects of IMPACT Self-Defense courses facilitated by the El HaLev organization on ERI participants. Etti Research Institute.

The independent Israeli research institute ERI studied the effects of the IMPACT course on students, analyzing their attitudes before and after the course and comparing to a control group of Israeli women who had not taken the course. Two significant findings emerged from the study that show how profoundly the course affects its students. The first was the influence on students’ sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy in their day-to-day lives, and the second was a significant decrease in behaviors like self-silencing and avoiding stating an opinion, while self-expression and willingness to stand one’s ground were increased. 


It is interesting to note how the effects of the course were felt not only in the context of violence or sexual assault, but also in everyday contexts: family, interpersonal relationships, and professional relationships. The course appears to help women express themselves, actualize their potential, and feel fulfilled. 

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          Senn et al. (2015). 'Efficacy of a Sexual Assault Resistance'. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2326:2335


This study compared 451 women who received self-defense training to 442 women who did not. A year after the course was completed, researchers compared the groups and found that women who were trained in self-defense were at lower risk of attempted assault. In their article, the researchers explained how women’s self-defense courses decrease incidence of rape, attempted rape, and other forms of gender-based violence and harassment.

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          Gianine D. Rosenblum and Lynn S. Taska (2014) 'Self-Defense Training as Clinical Intervention for Survivors of Trauma'. Violence Against Women, 293:308


Researchers Rosenblum and Taska analyzed the effect of the IMPACT self-defense course on women coping with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Results showed that the course utilizes tools that have been proven effective in treating post-trauma, such as roleplaying and sustained, gradual exposure. Additionally, the course is based on principles that characterize post-trauma clinical intervention: use of adaptive coping mechanisms, emotional regulation, increasing ability to be “in the moment,” reframing past experiences, defining healthy interpersonal boundaries, and enhancing intimacy and social connections.


          Hollander, J.A. (2009) 'The Roots of Resistance to Women's Self-Defense'. Violence Against Women, 15:574.


Hollander conducted a study attempting to understand why people ignore women’s self-defense or dismiss it as an effective tool for prevention of sexual violence. She identifies three forms of resistance:

  • “It’s impossible”—women are incapable of successfully defending themselves against men.

  • “It’s too dangerous”—women who try to defend themselves will be hurt or injured or will go around looking for trouble.

  • Learning self-defense is a form of victim-blaming.

  • Hollander shows in her study that this resistance is based on chauvinist and misogynist perceptions and cultural beliefs that are a result of deeply embedded historical, social, and cultural mechanisms.

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              Leanne R. Brecklin. (2008). 'Evaluation outcomes of self-defense training for women: A review'. Aggression and Violent Behavior 13, 60-76


    Brecklin evaluates 20 studies on the psychological effects of women’s self-defense. The studies found that empowerment self-defense courses lead to increased levels of assertiveness and self-esteem in the students. Students report fewer fears and negative thoughts after completing the course. Graduates feel a greater sense of control and freedom to choose, and less helplessness. In light of all this, women report that after completing the course, they feel more confident in their ability to cope with threats, and therefore more freedom to engage in enjoyable activities that had previously scared them. Where they had previously avoided certain activities, after the course, they feel free to engage in them. For example, walking in the street after a certain hour, visiting certain areas in the city or in the world where they were previously afraid to set foot, etc.

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              Wendy S. David, Tracy L. Simpson and Ann J. Cotton. (2006). 'Taking Charge : A Pilot Curriculum of Self-Defense and Personal Safety Training for Female Veterans With PTSD Because of Military Sexual Trauma'. J Interpers Violence, 21: 555

    The researchers evaluated self-defense programs as prolonged exposure therapy for women who experienced sexual harassment and abuse in the American army. They found that self-defense training has the potential to combine the advantages of prolonged exposure with instruction in proactive cognitive and behavioral responses to threat. Throughout the six months after the completion of the course, participants showed fewer symptoms of trauma such as avoidance, hyperarousal, and depression, and a significant increase was noted in their self-efficacy in self-defense, interpersonal relationships, and general function.

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              Leanne R. Brecklin and Sarah E. Ullman. (2005) 'Self-Defense or Assertiveness Training and Women's Responses'. J Interpers Violence, 20:738

    The researchers evaluated the effects of self-defense training on women’s responses to real-life assault: how participation in a self-defense or assertiveness course influences their physical and psychological response during attempted assault after their training. The researchers showed that women who learned self-defense were more likely to report that their resistance stopped the assailant or made him less aggressive, as compared to reports from women who experienced attempted rape but were not trained in self-defense. Additionally, women who received self-defense training felt less fear and more anger during the assault, which is consistent with the contents of these courses.

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              Hollander, J. A. (2004) "I Can Take Care of Myself'' : The Impact of Self-Defense Training on Women's Lives'. Violence Against Women, 10:205.


    Hollander analyzes the IMPACT course from a feminist perspective, and argues that the course helps women understand how traditional gender education affects their behavior and learn alternatives that help them behave differently: they are less fearful and more confident, more aware of their personal boundaries, give precedence and expression to their needs and desires, trust themselves instead of others, and conceive of themselves as strong, capable, effective, and more in control of their lives and their safety. This is an alternative to the traditional social construction of women as nice, self-composed, physically weak, and considerate of others while putting their needs and desires aside. The researcher concludes that what happens in the course is a change in participants’ self-perception, beliefs about women, and interactions with the world around them during both stereotypical dangerous situations and day-to-day life.

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              De Welde, K. (2003). 'Getting Physical : Subverting Gender through Self-Defense'. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 32:247


    This study, executed in the University of Colorado, involved interviewing students who had participated in empowerment self-defense workshops (*El HaLev is the Israeli representative of this method). Results showed that the course allows women to change their self-perception—a significant shift from a feeling of helplessness to a sense of self-efficacy, independence, control, and strength. The body is experienced as a source of power and not only vulnerability, and traditional perceptions of female power are called into question while students are exposed to new perceptions through their physical experience.

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              McCaughey, M. (1998). 'The Fighting Spirit : Women's Self-Defense Training and the Discourse of Sexed Embodiment'. Gender & Society, 12:277

    A study of the effects of IMPACT self-defense courses over a period of three years showed that women’s self-defense calls basic cultural assumptions about female and male bodies into question, and that the course gives women a sense of worthiness. As a result of the course, women are less afraid of violent assault, and therefore are less likely to engage in avoidant behavior, and report feeling greater freedom. Graduates report that as a result of the course, they experienced significant changes in their lives: the courage to start a business, to confront an abuser, to get divorced, to overcome an eating disorder, to go back to school, and the like. The study also concluded that the course has a positive effect on students’ day-to-day relationships with men—at work, in public, etc.

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              Ozer, E. & Bandura , A. (1990) 'Mechanisms governing empowerment effects: A self-efficacy analysis'. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58:472-486

    Albert Bandura is an important researcher in the field of psychology, one of the first to give in-depth explanations of the mechanism of psychological empowerment and the term “self-efficacy.” In this groundbreaking study, he used the example of women’s self-defense courses to show how the self-efficacy process works and to define some of the central terminology of psychological empowerment.

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